Johnson Raises Public Awareness Of Teen Mental Health
Submitted By Lisa Williams
On October 19, Terri Mabrito, Child Welfare Director of Voices for Children of San Antonio, a research and advocacy organization committed to making young children’s issues a priority in San Antonio, discussed teen mental health and suicide with a group from the Johnson High School community.
The Johnson High School PTSA hosted the informational meeting, endorsed by Principal John Mehlbrech and JHS STAN Counselor Lisa Williams. Several experts presented ways to raise awareness and be equipped to help prevent teen suicide and cyberbullying.
Teen suicide has risen over the past few years in Bexar County. Mabrito updated the audience about statistics and dispelled myths, especially the concern that talking about suicide encourages it. She listed warning signs, risky behaviors and emphasized the necessity of taking someone seriously who might be at risk. Mabrito also offered helpful contact information, such as the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline, 1-800-273-8255, and the organization website, www.stopteensuicide.info.
One teen suicide risk factor Mabrito mentioned was involvement in cyberbullying, whether as victim, perpetrator or bystander, which was a direct segue to the next presenter, Maurine Molak.
Maurine is the mother of David Molak and founder and board member of David’s Legacy Foundation, which is a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization dedicated to ending cyber-assisted bullying by educating communities about the harmful effects of cyber abuse, providing support for bullying victims, promoting kindness, and supporting legislation that prohibits the cyberbullying of minors. David’s Legacy Foundation was successful in encouraging the Texas Legislature to pass David’s Law, which took effect Sept. 1, 2017.
Molak invited every parent to imagine his or her child in David’s shoes. She described him as “listless,” “quiet,” “defeated,” and “a shell of himself,” as a result of relentless cyberbullying, which ultimately caused him to take his own life 21 months ago. She described cyberbullying as deafening but silent; obvious but hidden; bold but cowardly. Despite contacting David’s school and getting assistance from counselors, her family was powerless to halt the attacks.
Her motivation to share her story is to attempt “to bring something good out of something so devastating – to teach kids there’s a soul behind that screen.”
David’s law provides both civil and criminal teeth to a cyberbulling charge: notifying parents of bullies and victims of bullying; following investigation of social media posts and texts off campus; requiring schools to provide a way for anonymous reporting; and giving administrators more power to punish perpetrators.
“The dangers of the internet are not going away,” Molak stated.
She also reminded teens that their digital footprint will follow them. She urged parents to “teach their kids to be upstanders not bystanders.”
“You can’t just sit back and watch – the price is too high,” she said.